Gently stretching earlobes…and one more piece of a business model.

…and I mean, very gently, stretching earlobes!

Today I was able to find a new set of 14g spirals to put into my piercings, which would be the first earrings I’ve ever gotten at this gauge which are especially meant to be decorative.

I meant to ask about whether I should be concerned that when I went up to 14g after having the 16g in for a few weeks, I was playing with my piercing (sliding it back and forth to lubricate the ring and separate it from the skin) and heard a “pop”…Luckily, there was no oozing, no bleeding, no pain, no infection. Just a sound, and just once.

I was originally pierced at 14g (which is maybe 1.5-2mm wide?) and had gone down to nothing (22g is my finest earwire) and slowly back up to 14g, several times (maybe 4-6 times over something like a decade), so I thought maybe it was safe to accelerate things if my 16g earrings were loose and fine. I didn’t anticipate that my skin or scar itself might get moody and expand and shrink on me (which is what I think it did).

I don’t think I’ll be doing that in the future.

I’ve also experienced the feeling of a hook digging into my piercing from playing with it, as well (as though my fingernail had caught and torn the skin) — but again, no pain after that, no oozing, no bleeding, no infection.

These both happened on the left side. The latter sensation I can attribute to the possibility of a snag on a rough part of the earring (the piercer’s plier marks on the ring: these were the same rings I had been pierced with) — which is why I got new earrings. The former…? Well, I’ve heard that it’s normal for many tiny fractures and microtears to happen when gauging up, and am assuming it is that.

From advice online, I probably should have gone back down to 16g and waited out a healing period, but I didn’t. I’m hoping I’m not going to pay for that with a weak spot in my piercing forevermore (or until I get someone to punch out the surrounding tissue so it can heal correctly).

It’s also possible that my body is working out damage made over years, of trying and failing to find the actual hole in my ear, with my (sharp, largely mass-produced) earwires. I’m fairly certain that there should be some gratuitous scarring, though I can’t remember if I always had trouble finding the piercing on the right side, or the left side…but I’m thinking it was the left.

But today, I made it out to a quality body jewelry/piercing/tattoo place and purchased the tactilely (is that a word?) gorgeous surgical steel spirals I have in, now. Well, actually, M got them for me! They were $22, and I love them. There’s a beauty about them that is missing when someone makes an earring and tacks it onto a cheap, sharp, thin earwire (granted, they’re not all cheap and sharp, only the worst ones are — and I’ve found rare limited options in heavier “wires” [sometimes — as in the case of bronze — these are more likely cast units, not wires] up to 16g, but I think the general jeweling community stops, at that point).

Trying to find information on stretched piercings (and jewelry for such) online has got me thinking about targeting the large-gauge earring market, in between conventional jewelry (22g) and plugs/tunnels (let’s just say 0g/8mm, for now). I’m not sure if I mentioned this too often, before, but I have taken some Jewelry (silversmithing) classes, and I’ve been beading since I was 14 years old, so I’ve been through some minimal ropes where it comes to design, and construction. I also have a much better idea of where I stand as regards Intellectual Property than I used to (technique is no one’s property, unless it’s patented, and it usually isn’t).

I already know where to find heavy-gauge sterling and fine silver wire, and I know how to file and round the ends of wire, in addition to forging, annealing, hardening, pickling, and polishing. I also know where I can learn beginning lapidary, though I wouldn’t be quick to jump on that…powdered rock from sources unknown isn’t the safest thing to deal with, although carving is alluring.

I didn’t end up going into jewelry, because it’s hard to make a good living at being a jeweler, unless one is a Fine Jeweler and dealing with gold (allowing one to drastically raise the price of the finished product, introducing a large profit margin)…and gold extraction is known for being terrible for the environment (unless things have revolutionized within the last 10 years). This is why the group, Ethical Metalsmiths, was formed.

One of the reasons I let my piercings shrink up to wear conventional jewelry is that I had a concern that large-gauge earring options would disappear in the West during my lifetime. But if I fill that gap myself, there really isn’t anything to be concerned about — for myself, at least. And I know that there is a market. When I wear my own jewelry, clients find me. They literally see my jewelry and stop me.

This hasn’t happened with large-gauge earrings (it’s a rather obvious assumption that I can’t blacksmith and that spring-loaded rings are likely specially made), but I know that when I wear what I do have, others with large-gauge piercings, notice — and are especially kind to me! (Well, I’m thinking of one recent person in particular, but I know a lot of people with expanded piercings.)

I’m writing this post because I can see a potential future in this, even though it will take work — a lot of work. But I’ve found a market gap, which is something I didn’t see, before. And crafting earrings is something I knew I would have to do if I did go into jeweling, because there is a much shorter time-frame for execution and thus a lower labor cost than for something like a necklace, bracelet, anklet, etc.

There’s also a lower materials cost, before we get into things like matched cut gems (though…transparent sparklies aren’t really my main aesthetic, anymore…well…fire opals excluded, let’s say!…but those are kind of niche, in themselves).

Those two things together mean that I can sell at a lower cost. That would assist me in reaching my target market (Millennials/Gen X/Gen Y), who in turn will likely be willing to pay more for something they know they can’t find, normally. All of this together means that I have a better chance of a profit margin that is healthy enough to stay alive on…and maybe the possibility of making jewelry that I’m really into (earrings and not)!

If, that is, I can find my market, which likely means targeting tattoo and piercing parlors to sell my work. It will also likely mean remaining urban. And getting down with people I might like…jewelers, lapidarists, customers.

Yes, there is a community aspect of this, though it’s loose. (It’s always good when it’s loose!)

I wonder if I should do some market research? And maybe, if I make some prototypes and/or designs, consult with the place where I bought my jewelry, today?

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paintedstone

Haru ("Codey") is a third-year Master's student in Library and Information Science, hoping to find a way to fuse their desire to make the world a better place and to finance their art.

One thought on “Gently stretching earlobes…and one more piece of a business model.”

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